Our Culture and History

Our Background and Beliefs

City Year was founded in 1988 by Michael Brown and Alan Khazei, then-roommates at Harvard Law School, who both felt strongly that young people in service could be a powerful resource for addressing some of America’s most pressing issues. They built City Year with the belief that each one of us has the power to make a difference in the world, and they were right. Since our inception, City Year has promoted the vision of service as a real opportunity for citizens all around the world to do something good within their communities. It’s through that service that we’re able to demonstrate the power and idealism of young people, engage students and citizens to achieve a common goal, and mold the leaders of the next generation. 

Where Our Name Comes From

The City Year Name Defined

Our mission is fueled by a culture of idealism. At City Year, we define “idealism” as the belief that you have the passion, skills, and courage to change the world. Everything we do is grounded in this concept and the unshakeable belief that we can all help make the world a better place. Optimism and idealism aren’t just encouraged, they’re both necessary to help advance our mission of keeping students in school and on track to graduation. We believe these traits are contagious, and that’s why we strive to share them with our communities and the world around us.

City Year Logo

To share the power of our mission with others, City Year corps members proudly wear our uniform—including our familiar red jackets. With our uniform on, City Year corps members symbolize trust and continuity in the neighborhoods we serve, while also expressing their full-time commitment to solving social problems, their support for our students, and their dedication to building a better community.

Since 1988, it is our vision that the most commonly asked question of a young person some day will be:

 "Where Will You Do Your Service Year?" 

To get a better an idea of our culture and history, visit our Founding Stories—a growing collection of stories and quotes from other cultures that have inspired us over the years and have influenced us as an organization.